In every breastfeeding journey, there comes a time when a baby bottle enters the picture and becomes your best friend. Whether it’s for delivering purified water, pumped milk, or formula, the bottle is almost impossible to avoid in the first year of life – and hopefully not too difficult to wean from down the line.
There is no ideal time to introduce bottle feeding, but if you are nursing, it’s recommended to wait until supply is well established, and both you and baby have gotten the hang of breastfeeding. For exclusively breastfed babies, taking a bottle can be a challenge if it doesn’t happen fairly early on. Nipple confusion can set in, or worse, your little one might refuse the bottle entirely. Below, some tips that can help make the transition easier on everyone.
First off, if baby exhibits severe discomfort or has trouble sucking from a bottle (or breast, for that matter), visit your pediatrician ASAP to rule out medical issues with mouth development, such as tongue tie or an elevated palate. If you plan to continue breastfeeding or pumping while bottle feeding, you may also want to seek the advice of a lactation consultant to ensure you can maintain your milk production.
Tip #1: The most important feature for a new-to-bottles baby is the nipple’s softness and texture. Coarse, thick nipples are not recommended for the first attempt at bottle feeding. The softer and thinner the nipple, the better. You may want to immerse the nipple in warm water for some time to help soften it. Dipping it in expressed breast milk may also help whet baby’s appetite and entice him to take the bottle more easily.
Tip #2: Don’t assume bottles and nipples are interchangeable. Find the one she likes and stay loyal to it indefinitely, otherwise you’ll experience a whole other form of nipple confusion. Our favorite for nursing babies is Munchkin’s Latch bottle collection (more on that below).
Tip #3: Try bottle feeding when baby is just starting to show signs of hunger. Contrary to popular belief, waiting until she’s extremely hungry may backfire and cause even more frustration for both of you. If it starts to become stressful, take a break to snuggle your little one and try again a while later.
Tip #4: Delegate! Since baby associates mom with nursing, try to have someone else give the first bottle. If you’re nearby, the bottle will be far less appealing than your readily available breast.
Tip #5: Positioning counts. Babies are used to certain positions while nursing, so the goal should be to replicate that same position when introducing the bottle. This differs for every baby due to the variable size and positioning of each mother’s chest.
Tip #6: Practice patience (we know it’s hard!). Give your baby time to adjust, because drinking milk from a bottle uses different mouth muscles than drinking from a breast. There is a learning curve just like anything else.
Knowing that bottle difficulty is a common issue for breastfed babies, Munchkin created an innovative line called Latch. The collection is designed specifically to ease the transition from bottle to breast and back again. Latch products are great for all babies, but especially breastfed ones, as they mimic the breastfeeding experience more closely than others. The unique accordion-style nipple stretches just like the breast. This not only creates a sense of familiarity but helps baby latch on more easily and correctly, too. The bottle releases more milk when baby pushes against the nipple’s base, just like when he nurses. Lastly, the patent-pending nipple design is flexible enough to move with baby’s head, ensuring that baby maintains his latch and ingests less air while feeding.
Get the full scoop on Latch here and good luck with your upcoming bottle adventure!
*Please note that the above is a recommendation from experienced moms, not a medical professional. Always consult your doctor when making decisions regarding your baby’s feeding.